Sudan: Next on line for destruction like Iraq, Syria and Libya?
By Latheef Farook
It is Africa’s large Muslim country Sudan, strategically located in the Horn of Africa alongside the Red Sea and the entrance to the Suez Canal, seems to the latest Muslim country to be destroyed like Iraq, Syria and Libya.
After weeks of escalating tension, in the struggle for power, devastating fierce armed clashes erupted between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the powerful paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) on 15 Saturday April 2023.
Clashes threaten to plunge the country into a full-blown civil war. With bombing residential areas people started fleeing the cities, foreign embassies evacuated their staff ,hospitals were shut and dead bodies litter streets all over the capital city Khartoum.
The current political crisis in Sudan can be traced back to 2019, after a nationwide protest movement ended with the military removing the three-decade-long former dictator Omar al-Bashir.
The transition towards full civilian rule that followed was brought to a crashing halt in October 2021 by a military coup led by SAF commander and Sudanese de facto head of state General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and his deputy Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, who is the Rapid Support Force, RSF, chief.
In December 2022, the military and civilian leaders signed a preliminary deal to end military rule and enable a two-year civilian-led transition towards elections. However, political disagreements have stood in the way of reaching a final resolution. The integration of the RSF into the military is chief among those disputes. Delays in the signing of the deal were exacerbated by growing personal rivalry between al-Burhan and Daglo.
Foreign powers from the region and beyond were deeply involved .
Already there are fears of a broader civil war, embroiling neighboring countries amid reports of Egyptian forces fighting alongside the Sudanese army in Meroe, where Cairo has a base housing fighter jets used in joint drills in 2020.
The war in Darfur, in western Sudan, where 300,000 people were killed and 2.5 million displaced in fighting between 2003 to 2008. Al-Burhan was an army chief, while Dagalo led the notorious Janjaweed militias responsible for the worst atrocities of the conflict.
Al-Burhan is backed by Egypt’s brutal dictator, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi and layers close to the military that have long controlled Sudan’s sprawling military-industrial complex. He is reportedly supportive of the US and the European powers in the US/NATO war against Russia in Ukraine. He has also established ties with Israel.
Dagalo, who has become enormously rich based on Darfur’s gold, is backed by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Saudi Arabia. Controlling the export of gold, he has close relations with Russia whose Wagner mercenaries operate in Sudan and neighboring Central African Republic.
Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are seen to be allies of the junta. They perhaps fear the protests in Sudan could inspire similar popular uprising in their countries. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, have long sought to shape events in Sudan, as a way to roll back Islamist influence
The TMC’s vice-president, Mohamed Hamdan Dagolo flew to Saudi Arabia last June to meet the crown prince Mohamed Bin Salman, promising to stand with the kingdom against threats and continue sending Sudanese troops to help the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen.
The long-expected power struggle not only threatens to destabilize just Sudan but much of the Horn of Africa region, which is beset with myriad conflicts amid drought and famine and is the arena of a battle for influence involving the Gulf powers, the US, the European Union and Russia.
Sudan’s military has close relations with Russia, which is trying to establish a base at Port Sudan, on the Red Sea; selling much of its gold that accounts for 40 percent of the country’s exports to Russia via the UAE; abstaining on the UN resolution condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and infuriating the Biden administration. Washington is determined to sever Sudan’s relationship with Iran, Russia and China, close Port Sudan to the Russian navy, and strengthen its regional anti-Iran alliance to which Sudan had signed up earlier this year.
Dubai is the destination for almost all of Sudan’s gold, official or smuggled. But contacts with the UAE soon became more than just commercial. In 2015, the Sudanese government agreed to send a battalion of regular forces to serve with the Saudi-Emirati coalition forces in Yemen – its commander was Gen Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, now chair of the ruling Transitional Military Council.
But a few months later, the UAE struck a parallel deal with Mohamed Hamdan Dagolo to send a much larger force of RSF fighters, for combat in south Yemen which includes the port city of Hudaydah-the scene of fierce fighting last year.
Mohamed Hamdan Dagolo also provided units to help guard the Saudi Arabian border with Yemen. By this time, the RSF’s strength had grown tenfold. Its command structure didn’t change: all are Darfurian Arabs, its generals sharing the Dagolo name.
With 70,000 men and more than 10,000 armed pick-up trucks, the RSF became Sudan’s de facto infantry, the one force capable of controlling the streets of the capital, Khartoum, and other cities.
Social media users have circulated a recording attributed to the former head of Sudanese intelligence, Salah Gosh, accusing the United Arab Emirates of being behind recent events in Sudan. They allegedly established a ‘command centre’ in Abu Dhabi with the aim of replacing the army with the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) led by Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo.
In the alleged audio recording, which could not be verified, a man media outlets identified as the Sudanese Army’s Chief of Staff, General Kamal Abdel Marouf, said the initial change in Sudan began with a “Masonic conspiracy from within the system, and from camel-herding countries in the Gulf that sponsored the change, as well as foreign countries that relied on some wandering individuals in Europe who claim to be activists but are actually political traders.”
He added that Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo had met with UAE President Mohammed Bin Zayed and some financiers who agreed on the necessity of the change by force. This would involve striking the army and announcing a government recognized by the sponsoring countries, along with some international institutions and organizations. It would deal a crushing blow to the Islamic and military currents in the country.